Child care assistance

Daycare/child care/early learning programs can cost a lot, sometimes even as much as rent  or your mortgage! Pennsylvania has free programs for eligible families as well as financial help for child care..

  • 2015-GPS-logosmCheck out the Early Learning GPS to search for other local resources like free parenting/ adult education classes, food pantries, and other assistance. Create a free family account and map for your child and click on “Search/Saved Resources.” Click on the search icon in the upper right corner to search for resources by keyword or county. You can also go to the lower right of the home page and click “Search Local Resources.”

Here are some resources that can help you make ends meet. If you know of others that we can share, please email us!

Child Care Works (CCIS)
Child Care Works, sometimes called CCIS, provides financial help to families for daycare/ child care. To be eligible:

  • You must live in Pennsylvania
  • Have a child or children who need child care while you work or attend an education program
  • Meet income guidelines for your family size (generally, 200% of the federal poverty level)
  • Work 20 or more hours a week – or- Work 10 hours and go to school or train for 10 hours a week
  • Have a promise of a job that will start within 30 days of your application for subsidized child care
  • Teen parents must attend an education program
  • The child who needs care must be a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residency
  • Have proof of identification for each parent or caretaker in the home.
  • Find out if you are eligible

Families may choose any child care program that accepts Child Care Works or a relative/neighbor provider that has completed CareCheck and federal criminal history clearance. Families pay a co-pay based on their income, and Child Care Works provides a subsidy to the child care program. Child care programs may charge fees that aren’t covered by Child Care Works, so be sure to ask the program about any fees when you visit or call about space.

You can sign up online at the COMPASS website (you can also sign up for programs like SNAP food stamps or LIHEAP energy assistance) or visit your local Child Care Information Services (CCIS) agency. Your CCIS can help you pick the right child care program for your family.

Child care scholarships

Some child care programs have scholarships of their own. When you visit or call a program, ask if they have offer scholarships or financial assistance.

Home visiting family support programs free to families

Pennsylvania offers free help for pregnant moms, infants and toddlers at home. A home visitor helps families understand things like nutrition, child health and ways to help your child develop. Three of these programs are Early Head Start, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers. Visit the Home Visiting page to learn more.

Pre-kindergarten programs free to families
Pennsylvania offers two pre-kindergarten programs free to families…

Head Start services support both the child’s development and a healthy family. Families earning up to 100% of poverty may apply. Contact your local Head Start agency to apply.

Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts provides free high quality pre-kindergarten. Full- and half-day classes are available in schools, Head Start, child care and nursery schools. Families earning up to 300% of poverty may apply. If your child is also learning English as a second language or has a disability, he/she may receive priority in enrollment.

To find PA Pre-K Counts programs in your community, visit the program search section of the COMPASS website. The website will ask you the age of your child and then provide a list of programs that serve children that age. Keep the PA Pre-K Counts button checked and continue entering information about your preferences. You will then receive a list of programs that met your search criteria. Contact programs directly for enrollment information and openings.

Pre-K EITC (Educational Improvement Tax Credit) scholarships
Through the Pre-K EITC program, companies donate money for pre-kindergarten scholarships in return for a tax credit. Contact the scholarship organizations in your area to find out what programs participate and how to apply for scholarships.

  • Susan says:

    I wouldnt even bother applying for ccis. The waiting list is stupid long and funding still isnt available and not expected to be available until 04/17. Im paying 20 a day for daycare for my newborn plus my ccis copay of 32 a week and im barely making enough money to pay my rent. Im probably going to be homeless soon because of it and all they can say is they dont know when the funding will be disbursed.

  • klstout says:

    I am feeling frustrated! I am a married, full time working mother of a one year old son. My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck and we are told we make too much money to receive assistance with child care. My husband works part time and pays $330 a month in child support for a daughter from a previous relationship. Our son has moderate persistent asthma and reactive airway disease with frequent hospital stays and a history of being on a ventilator. He is on several medications daily that cost us $100 a month to cover. With all of this we are told we make too much money. These guidelines for eligibility are unfair. Looking at gross income just isn’t conducive when we don’t see anywhere near that bring home and not taking into consideration that child support is taken out or the other costs of living such as rent and utilities is assinine. Those of us that work for a living and try to do better for our families are punished and those that sit around and do nothing are given everything. My son thrives at daycare and truly enjoys going but because I am unable to pay the $400+ bill every month he may not be able to keep attending. This just sickens me.

    • klstout says:

      Not to mention I have no other options for child care…..

    • Jamilla Bartley says:

      I am in the same boat it’s so unfair and those that sit home on their (redacted) and do nothing get free child care and after care and they don’t make them work or look for work. My sister has been unemployed for 4 years and she is not trying to work and she gets CCIS while my husband gets laid off and he is trying to find work and they tell him no because he’s home and he can watch them. Meanwhile my sister is home or running the streets and she gets all the child care she needs with my tax money the system is (redacted) up and someone really needs to do something about it.

      • Christina says:

        Yes this system needs to change. My whole pay check goes to daycare and rent. But people with no jobs get immediate assistance. Government all screwed up. Guess we should all sit at home to get help. Nobody pay taxes.

        • Carolyn says:

          How true! My daughter and her husband both work and their pay checks every two weeks goes to child care. Between the two of them they have maybe $50 left over. They are on the list but no answer as to when it will be available.

      • Nigel Williams says:

        Read the eligibility requirements. They have to be working.

    • Sadly paying taxes says:

      Same here

    • Kelley Page says:

      Same here but I am a single mother paying close to $900 a month in child care which is about 65% of my bring home. It’s insane! If I work at a gas station making $8 an hour is be better off. This is why people are quitting their jobs. My son and I are about to be homeless because I can’t get help#

      • Christina says:

        Yes they still on May and I applied in August. Talking bout the list moving slow because they do re evaluations once a year now instead of every six months. It’s been on May for 3 months and nobody has lost their job at Ccis but the list is not moving. So they made this decision so they can take longer to help working families. The waiting list was 3 months now it’s almost a year. Your encouraging people to not work. Great move gotta love America.

      • Barbara McHugh says:

        There are so many people in this very situation. I feel like if we all come together in some way we could help each other out. My daughter is in the same situation and I am paying $840 per month for just 3 days of daycare.Its killing me! I would love to reach out to every hard working parent that has been pushed off by the government red tape.

    • Xiamara L Cruz says:

      if you from the lehigh valley area go to the YMCA and the have scholarship application really simple. they pay up to 70% off of childcare and classes offer there. Hope I was a help.

  • Melissa says:

    I’ve been a stay at home mom for about 4 years now. My husband is going to be starting PA school next fall. It is full time (40 hours of school) plus 10-20 hours of studying a week). I will be going back to work full time while his is at school, but I likely will be making less than $35,000 for a family of five so we would definitely qualify financially. But, both parents are supposed to work. My husband will absolutely not be able to work 10 hours a week with his school load and there is no option to go part time. Does that mean my family will not be able to qualify?

  • Janell says:

    Hi I am a single mom of a 2 year old and we have a permanent restraining order on a jobless father. I make less than 25k/year. I applied at CCIS and was told funds aren’t available and that I’m on a 7 to 8 month waiting list. How in the world am I suppose to make this work!? That’s what I asked, I was told, check out your local YMCA. The la.

    • Someone says:

      It is ridiculous. If you receive cash assistance through welfare you will receive money for CCIS before anyone else who is on the waiting list. My son was on the waiting list for 3 months before I received funding. I just had another baby in August and he has been on the waiting list for almost 2 months. It sucks that people who actually are working have to wait for funding. But if you receive cash assistance you will receive funding ASAP

  • jessica says:

    I am A Mother Of A 1 Year Old Who’s Father Is Incarcerated I Live In Pennsylvania I Need To Find A Job But Have No one To Watch My Son While I Work

  • Tannia Martinez says:

    help im stuvk in this waiting list jam what else can i do

  • Teagam says:

    I am a mom to twin boys and married. My husband and I live pay check to paycheck. We make too much to get any help. I am trying to get into a nursing program. I can not work while in the program and our finances would be significantly cut. Is there any help or do I have to keep working full time at a low paying job.

    • Teagam says:

      I would just like to also mention that it seems like I am stuck right now and cannot get ahead in life. The nursing program is year round for two full years.

  • B vargas says:

    Im moving to Pennsylvania with two children ages 1 and 3 .. Im very worried on how to start from 0 with needing a Job and no child care to even go out and look for one .. Anyone , help please ? Single mom in desperate need of child care to be able to bring an income.

    • Liz says:

      Some cities offer head start or pre k counts program. Search to see if where your living offer that for your oldest. Look for family centers for your youngest. They might be that expensive. If your going through DPW to find training for work, ask for assistance in childcare.

  • Janay Wyatt says:

    I am a mother of a 3 and 7 year old, and I don’t work. I currently attend online college but I need someone to care for my children while I go out and look for a job. I have no one to watch my kids, and their father has been incarcerated for 2 years. I need help! I need to work but need a caretaker so I can get a job. What can I do?

  • Susan says:

    Help!! I am a proud grandma of a disable granddaughter, whom I have custody of. I work a full time job. Her mother is disable and lives with me as well. My granddaughter has been in a stable, happy, friendly daycare for the last 5 years. Her mother is not able to supervise her. The daycare has informed me that she has maxed out at age 8. She turned 9 during school year and giving me till the end to find her something else.
    The school she attends was going to transfer her, but through a lot of emotional roller coasting, they have agreed. It was in her best interest to continue at the same school. They were spliting the children between schools, like a rotation. She is in need of stability and routine. She functions so well when she is in a routine. I don’t have anyone to watch her now, she is in need of an adult eye at all times.
    I can’t get or find anyone to help. I have contacted the County and they are “working” on it, but time is running out for me. I’m worried that I’ll lose my job cause I won’t let her be somewhere unsafe.
    Does anyone have any ideas? Please No day care centers will accept her due to age. Now what do I do? Is this really legal?
    By the way, when we first started this daycare, there was no age limit put in place in my paperwork. The Director told me it was not a problem, that her kids stayed there. Help Anyone?

  • matt says:

    That’s great there are ALL these resources available to single mothers but it is dad that I am a single father of a beautiful two year old daughter and get no help from her mother bc she is incarcerated and I applied for welfare for medical and food stamps and day care assistance and was turned down because they want a child support order against the mother since she gets alimony from her previous marriage and domestic relations refuses to take her for child support so as a father you get no assistance and I am forced to work 120 hours every two weeks Monday through Friday to substain thankfully I have a wonderful caring family who can babysit around my work schedule since this state does not care about men raising a child alone and punish them instead of offering same assistance

    • Ken says:

      Amen brother… I myself a single parent of a 3b and 6g am have the worse time trying to get assistance. My parents help when they can but they both work their own full time jobs and I work overnight while the babysit for me but then that leaves me tired during the day … I just want to get my son in daycare so I don’t fall asleep and get a charge for endangering the welfare of a child or possibly loosing them but I keep getting the run around from CCIS (to impower women )… Their mom is around but basically refuses to pay child support and is now working on being $5000 behind but still walking the streets and making very good money 6 figures to sum it up and hasn’t paid a penny … I feel like if I had a vagina I would be further ahead .. ima try ccis one last time n then if that doesn’t work I’m writing a state representative

  • Charlene says:

    What is frustrating is that questions are being asked but not answered. It seems the monitor is just referring everyone back to their local CCIS office or ignoring the question. The CCIS offices cannot answer many of these questions either. My local office representative told me that he did not want to be “arrogant, but almost everybody” is in my situation and “they manage to figure it out”. He added that he was suspicious of anyone that did not want to provide duplicate documentation even if they do not have access to a computer, fax, copier, or scanner.

    • Mary says:

      Hello, Charlene. It does sounds that you have had a frustrating experience. No one should have to “figure it out” on their own!

      We at PA’s Promise for Children do refer many to their local CCIS office because these offices are the local hubs of child care information. They are offices representing the PA Department of Human Services, designed to aid all Pennsylvania families in locating safe child care within their community. In addition, there is the Child Care Works Helpline at 1-877-4-PA-KIDS to help families.

      If you’re finding you’re not getting the information you need from your local CCIS office, I would encourage you to contact the Child Care Works Helpline, or ask to speak with the supervisor at the CCIS office.

  • Dixie says:

    I have 2 disabled children, one 11, the other is 4, and also a pair of 2 year old twins. My two older children require special schooling and have many appointments with therapist, doctors, etc. I don’t work because of all of the traveling involved going to and from special schools, therapist, doctors, etc on a daily basis, but I would like the 2 year twins to go to preschool and obtain the social skills needed to attend schooling in a few years, and be with other children of their own age, and truly believe it is in their best interests, also not to be traveling around all the time due to their older siblings. Will CCIS help pay for them to attend a day care or pre k program, even though I am not working, but caring/nurturing my two older disabled children?

    • Mary P. Hall says:

      Hello, Dixie. Thanks for your comment. You’d have to check with your local CCIS Office to see if you qualify for child care assistance. You can also submit and application online at the PA Department of Human Service’s COMPASS website.

  • Ashlee Younberg says:

    I am a single mother of 1 he is 3. He is in head start now. I just got accepted a full time job but if I am put on a waiting list for months I could lose this job which I need to get off food stamps. What other outlets can be used so he can have full time daycare so I can have a full time job?

  • Mrs. B. says:

    Good day,

    Are there any non-income based scholarships available? We live in Abington, PA and plan to send our children to public school. However with one in day care and one in preschool, tuition is over $20,000 – more than our monthly mortgage payments. And this is at a lower-priced school to boot. Is there any assistance we could receive until our children are in public school? We are in dire straights! Thank you!

    • Mary P. Hall says:

      Mrs. B., for non-income based scholarships, you would need to contact the individual program. Some may have assistance available. I would also encourage you to check out PA Pre-K Counts. The income limit is higher than some other income-based programs. (For example, family earning up to 300% of poverty such as a family of four earning $72,750 may be eligible.)

  • Anne says:

    We were recently told we make too much to qualify for CCIS, I cannot work if my children do not attend daycare due to their father’s variable work schedule. Their father’s pay barely covers our mortgage payments and full time out-of-pocket childcare would cost more than I make. We make too much for Head Start. I applied to Pre-K Counts, but that program only overs 3 hours a day. We are going to be homeless soon if I can’t find a way to provide care for my children and keep my job. I have no parents or relatives close who can help and am running out of options.

  • Amy D. says:

    Hi! I have a 4 year old son that needs to be enrolled in preschool for the educational and social aspects but I just can’t afford it.
    I make too much money to get assistance from any programs but not enough to survive. My husband is on disability so he and our son both get a small income that has to be counted as income. My husband has been watching our son even though he is disabled. However, recently my husband and our son were in a pretty bad accident and my husband was injured a lot worse than we initially thought. He is no longer really safe to watch our son due to memory loss, being disoriented and very off balance but I have no money to put him is school and I can’t lose my job to care for him. We are depending on family as much as possible. I know we qualify for Pre K Counts but every provider I contact says they no longer participate even though they are still on the list provided by Pre K Counts and they are impossible to contact by phone. Any ideas of what to do would be greatly appreciated!!!!!

    • Mary P. Hall says:

      Amy, you can search for all preschools in your area by clicking here. I would also suggest applying for Child Care Works via your local CCIS office. The Governor has proposed in his budget proposal to make it possible for 3,600 additional children to receive child care assistance in 2015-16, so the waiting lists may go down quickly if his budget is passed.

  • dbmdbm says:

    Hi, I’m a FTM and was told by friends that the wait list is pretty long. I am 8 mos preg and was wondering am I able to apply before the baby is born?

    Thank you

    • Kelly Swanson says:

      Congratulations! Waiting lists are different depending on your location, and you may move up the line pretty quickly. Contact your local CCIS agency now and ask if you can sign up now or wait til the baby is born. The Governor has proposed in his budget proposal to make it possible for 3,600 additional children to receive child care assistance in 2015-16, so the waiting lists may go down quickly if his budget is passed.

    • lisa says:

      if u take miternity leve n get cash assistance u quilify fir ccis as soon as the baby is 6 weeks

      • Mary says:

        Hi, Lisa. Unfortunately, we don’t have information about benefits. You should contact your local County Assistance Office with questions about benefits via PA Department of Human Services.

  • Jenny N says:

    My daughter finally made it to the top of the waiting list but now there are no day cares that open early enough (she has to be to work by 6AM), AND none that have room for 3 children! She’s been trying to get this help for years and something always happens, like what is happening now. Can she have someone come to the home to watch the children and does she need a license or specific training? Thanks, we’re desperate.

  • FTMDoingITAllAlone says:

    Hello, I am a working Mom-to-be and the father of my child does not work. We do live together and I take care of all of the financial responsibilities. With the 3 of us (my future baby) I make within the income guidelines to qualify for a subsidy. My question is since he cannot find work and we cannot afford for him to go to school at the time and as both parents are supposed to be working or in school… will that affect our eligibility?

  • leanne says:

    Hello, I am a mother of two who works a flex schedule to even be able to work around my children’s school schedule, I come from a two income household, but I’m stuck in that crappy bracket where you make to much for any assistance but can’t afford it on your own. My family lives paycheck to paycheck, and during the summer I pretty much don’t work at all which ends up with us spending the other half of the year catching up on those bills. What are people like me supposed to do? ???

  • Tisha says:

    I’m a 31 year old college grad with 1 year daughter who makes 37K and still struggle to pay bills and $820 a month for daycare, no new car or car payments. The government feels like I make to much money but I don’t. I’ve been working since I was 15, paid taxes and I still can’t get any help. Its very frustrating when a person like me needs help for short period of time but can’t get any. What should a person in my situation do?

    • Ronda S says:

      Did you ever receive a response, I am having the same issue, I haven’t worked since I was 15 but I make 33K and I am a single mom who need a little help and I pay my taxes. I can not afford a car or childcare. I am disgusted.

  • arooj says:

    i am single mother with 2 kids. Age 4 and 7. I am suffering. I work and go to school. My mother who lives 10 miles from me. and she is 78 years old. she take care of kids. I am eligible from CCIS. but i am on waiting list. What should i Do?

  • dweidel says:

    My friend wants to take a training class to update her skills and get back to work. She has children and no family or childcare in the area. She is poverty level.
    can she take the class and obtain free child care in Philadelphia for 11 weeks most are half days. Can you help?

    • Mary P. Hall says:

      Hi! Thanks for your comment. The first (and best) place for your friend to start would be her local Child Care Information Services (CCIS) office. They can help with what early learning providers and programs are available in the area, and what types of supports (like Child Care Works) might be available to help with the cost of child care. To find her local CCIS contact information, select her county here, then look under “Financial Assistance and Human Services”. The local CCIS office will be listed there.

      If your friend would like to apply for child care assistance, she can also do that on the internet at the COMPASS website.

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